Designed in 1982 by Katsushi Murakami for Popy as the second figure in the Machine Robo range, the Battle Robo originally retailed at ¥600. As well as the standard release, a gold version also was issued as a Lucky Draw prize. The original was reissued by Bandai in 1983 in the company's new 'diagonal' box design. Unlike most of the early figures, Battle Robo was not recoloured for a 'Best of Machine Robo' set.

By 1983 the line had come to Europe as Robo Machine, and the Battle Robo had its' designation changed to 'Tank'. Shortly afterwards, Tonka licensed the Machine Robo line for American release (though the figure had briefly been released in America as part of Bandai's short-lived American series Machine Men designated Tank Man), and Tank (seeing a pattern here?) was assigned to the Renegade faction. The character turned up regularly in the Challenge of the Gobots animated series (voiced by Peter Cullen, more famous for voicing the G.I. Joe character Airborne), and also featured in the British Robo Machines comic strip (where his appearances usually ended up with him getting injured). Both these incarnations focused on the character's lumbering stupidity offsetting his physical strength and firepower.

The toy received another release in Japan in 1986, where the Battle Robo made a natural choice to be reissued as a member of the Battle Tribe (coded MRB-13). The release wasn't such a solid seller in the West, though, and Tank was among the first figures to be dropped from the Gobots line, though he later re-emerged in a gift pack.


ALTERNATE MODE

Like several of the early Machine Robo moulds, Tank eschews any attempt at realism, instead opting for a more futuristic look. The basic idea behind the tank mode is sound - I love the chromed weapons (including the turning turret), the trapezoid tracks and the transparent cockpit (which helps convey a sense of scale, giving the impression this is a massive vehicle).

Sadly, it's ruined by a particularly lame attempt at hiding the robot mode parts. Most obvious are the arms, slung alongside the body without any attempt to disguise them. The back of the arms are even hollow, and the fists are especially obvious. The legs are hardly subtle either, despite the front weapon doing a little to cover them. Sadly, the separate limbs are plain to see, as are the shape of the feet. Even the handy "not a real vehicle" get-out can't do much to hide this mode's inadequacies.


ROBOT MODE

Like everything else about him, Tank's transformation is staggeringly simple - the top of the tank basically folds up. It's the same rough idea as used for Loco and Dozer, but it's even more stark and basic here. To look on the positive side, it does result in a decent looking robot. As with Loco, the straightforward conversion does lead to an imposing robot. Tank is well-sculpted, and a fraction taller than most first-year figures. His bulky shape does tally nicely with his media persona, which is an added bonus. There's something quite endearing about this great big lummox of a Renegade. Detail is well-used - the shade of blue used is rather nice, while the paint apps and stickers on the robot mode break up his appearance a little, and he's got a decent enough face.

The arms move, and the legs can also, but sadly the joints are backwards (not that this stopped initial Robo Machines artist Mario Capaldi showing them bending this way). Having two guns does help add to the crack soldier feel though, especially when you consider most Gobots don't even have one.


SUMMARY

Despite his staggering simplicity and the disappointing alternate mode, it's very difficult to dislike Tank. There's something charmingly naïve about the mechanics - that transforming robots of this size were such a novelty in 1982 that Popy could get away with one that just folded in half to form a vehicle. Despite the disappointing vehicle mode, the robot really does look rather good, and like many of the first series Gobots he has a sort of chunky retro charm to Tank, even if actual quality evades him. A cheap Tank is certainly worth it as a brief diversion, but the figure's early release, and the trouble of finding one with the guns (which do add a certain something) might not be worth it. One for converts who like the line's more simplistic efforts.


THE FACTS
[Corrections? Let me know!]

RELEASES:
1982, Machine Robo Series - MR-02: Battle Robo
1983, Machine Robo Series - MR-02: Battle Robo (Bandai reissue)
1983, Machine Men - 02: Tank Man
1983, Robo Machine - RM-02: Tank
1983, Gobots Series 1 - 02: Tank
1985, Gobots Renegade Gift Pack #2 - Tank (packed with Crasher and Geeper-Creeper)
1986, Machine Robo Revenge of Cronos - MRB-13: Battle Robo

PARTS:
1 x gun turret
1 x twin gun

WEAK POINTS:
Hips, knees

US PATENT: